Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Transit of Venus

Today South Africans will be able to witness a celestial spectacle no one will ever see again this century: a transit of Venus. While Venus starts to slowly pass between Earth and Sun, millions of people will look in awe at the planet’s silhouette against the brilliant solar disk, beholding the actual clockwork movement of our solar system. It’s one of the most infrequent of planetary alignments, and its rarity alone should justify your own observation of the transit. If you miss this one, you will have to wait another 105 years - until  December 2117. The last transit took place in 2004.

Because of its rarity, viewing the transit yourself not only connects you to the hundreds of astronomers in history who set out on perilous journeys to measure the Sun’s distance using the transit of Venus, but also to your descendants who will see it again in the next century: it will make you part of a chain of privileged people to whom Venus reveals her black profile backdropped by the solar disk ...

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